An accessible document is a document that people with a range of physical and cognitive impairments can read and understand.
An accessible document is, typically, also a document that people with no physical or cognitive impairments can read and understand better, and faster.
Also typically, an accessible document is easier for content authors to maintain. Because it uses tools that are baked in to Word and other MS Office applications to support accessibility and improve workflow.
So, here are some tips on creating accessible Word documents.
As an organisation we are committed to do more testing with people with accessibility needs. This will ensure that our services can be easily accessed by everyone and to meet our legal obligations as a public sector organisation. We aim to recruit participants with accessibility needs in every round of research that we do to ensure that accessibility is considered at every stage of the project.
We tested extensively the prototype for the Green jobs grant which was launched in the summer of 2021.
We had a number of aims for this research:
To test the application journey with users who have a range of accessibility needs and to find what the challenges were for them in our journey
To get clarity on what areas worked well
We wanted to discover if different needs give conflicting priorities
As an enterprise agency, our role is to support economic development, and this includes offering support and information to businesses in Scotland. This sometimes results in the misconception that our users are simply ‘businesses’.
But that’s not strictly the case. Even though our services are aimed at businesses, it’s still individual people that read our content, navigate application forms or contact our experts. They could be business owners, CEOs, accountants, finance directors, department heads, or any other individual within an organisation. And, being real people, there are a whole range of different needs and situations we need to consider when writing for them.
Anyone who’s worked on iterative design projects – sometimes called ‘agile’ projects, although that term itself often hinders understanding, rather than helping it – will know that reflection is a key part of the journey. We’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately, and it’s prompted me to reflect on what digital transformation is – or perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t.
When we do user research with businesses, we often hear the same things over and over again, regardless of which design, platform or web page we’re testing.
Here are a few things that our customers consistently tell us:
1. Get to the point
Business owners are time-poor. They don’t want to waste time reading through a lot of content. We need to get to the point quickly or we’ll lose them.
They like clear, simple language and bullet points. They hate long paragraphs and jargon.
When it comes to our digital services, we tend to focus a lot of how things work technically and what they look like – which are both important – but so much of the feedback we get from customers is about the words that we use. Words matter. We need to choose them carefully.
“There are a lot of words there and my time is really precious.”
“I don’t have the time to read the whole page.”
“I’m dyslexic – that wall of words is off putting. I’d prefer to see it broken down a wee bit.”
Last week I read a Twitter thread from Gerry McGovern. He’s a bit of a guru in designing digital experiences and is also passionate about the impact that ‘digital’ is having on the environment.
‘Organisation with 100 million visits a year finds that 5% of its content is getting over 80% of visits. Over 100,000 pages have not been reviewed in 10 years. We produce content. We do not manage it. 90% of content is crap. It was like this 25 years ago. It’s still the same.’
It made me think about the Scottish Enterprise website and whether we saw the same statistics. So, I asked our product owner David what our customers were looking at.
COVID-19. Collective sigh. If you’re not jaded by it all yet then your reserves of positivity surely know no bounds.
The winds of change that have blown across our world as a result of this surreal event are quite incredible. And many things will never be the same again.
Small town centres, previously peppered with empty shops, are bustling. Employers are embracing remote working like never before. Deserted city centre scenes, previously only featured in apocalyptic movies, have graced the evening news.
But some things haven’t changed.
Many organisations continue to create policy, advice, products and services in complete ignorance of how user behaviour in the modern age will define their effectiveness.
There’s been no more perfect example of this than the four corners of the UK all having different and, in many cases, contradictory rules and advice for citizens to follow during this pandemic.
Part of me wonders if I should say this, but…I love it when user research goes wrong.
Sometimes you go into user research with a hypothesis and the research validates it. That’s great. That’s easy. But what I really love is when you go in with a hypothesis and the research totally flips it on its head. That’s when you learn the most.
I recently did some user research on a document that we’re using to support our new approach to helping companies. It outlines what their project is, what support Scottish Enterprise and our partners can offer them, and how we plan to measure outcomes. We went in wanting to know what companies thought about the format of the document and if there was anything about it that didn’t work for them. We hypothesized that:
Some of the language wasn’t customer-focused enough, and people would be put off by it
The second page of the document that lists the support that we offer would be the section that businesses would refer to the most
They would prefer a digital version of the document over a paper version
Earlier on in the year, myself, and Derek Hawthorne from SDS connected on LinkedIn about a mutual interest in an article about making the web a greener place. Through further conversation we discovered that we are both working on Design Systems.
SDS are at the very early stage of creating a Design system while we are further on in our journey. Derek reached out to see if we could share what we are doing, so we set up a sharing session.
As part of the recent Green Jobs funding call, the project team asked if the service design team could help with level two system support. This meant helping with technical issues that customers were having if the enquiry team couldn’t resolve them.
I didn’t want to do it at first. I’m not really that technical, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to help. Even though our service adoption team gave us training and a knowledge bank that we could use, I still didn’t feel confident on my first shift.
To my surprise, it was actually an interesting – and eye-opening – experience. Here’s what I learned:
Scottish Enterprise is changing. We are delivering services to customers and stakeholders in new ways, this gives us a fabulous opportunity but also presents some challenges.
As the team leader for the user centered design team at Scottish Enterprise I hear comments such as ‘What do you mean when you say service’, ‘We don’t really know what you do or who you are’ and also ‘But don’t you just build websites? Why do you care about all this other stuff that’s not digital?’
It prompted me to think what was causing this perception and how I felt four years ago when I joined the digital team at Scottish Enterprise. I was struck by how many people are involved and therefore how confusing it can be.
The way that we support businesses is changing. As part of these changes, we’re putting a bigger emphasis on ensuring that the companies that we support meet, or are working towards, Fair Work and Net Zero principles.
What are Fair Work and Net Zero?
Fair work is work that offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect:
Effective voice: employers create a safe environment where dialogue and challenges are dealt with constructively, and where employee views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference
Opportunity: fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment
Security: people have reasonable security and stability of employment, income and work
Fulfilment: people have access to fulfilling work
Respect: people are treated respectfully, whatever their role and status
Businesses that commit to Fair Work must sign up to these principles:
Appropriate channels for effective voice and employee engagement, such as trade union recognition
Investment in workforce development
Actions to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace
No inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts
Paying the Real Living Wage (currently £9.50 in Scotland)
Heather Hepburn is the Accessibility Lead for Skyscanner and has been running their accessibility programme for just over a year.
Stéphanie Krus works as a Service Designer and is a member of the ‘Disability Positive’ group at Scottish Enterprise.
We ‘met’ virtually in October 2020 after a talk at the UCD Gathering from Heather Hepburn (Skyscanner) and Adi Latif (AbilityNet): “Digital Accessibility – How to get your organisation on the right track”
We realised we had a lot we could share regarding how we address and improve accessibility in our organisations. So we planned a knowledge sharing session which was held online on 27 January 2021 with about 20 people.
I started my career at Scottish Enterprise as a content designer. Actually, we were called ‘web content developers’ back then, before we really embraced the idea that there is more to content than just words on a web page. Then I joined the service design team as a service designer, and over the past few months, I’ve been doing a dual role as a service designer and user researcher.
We have a transformation programme underway across Scottish Enterprise. It was getting harder to see what needed to be done to deliver the bigger picture – rather than just bits of the jigsaw. In addition, many people were focusing solely on ‘the bit you need to build’, rather than seeing the whole service – end to end, online and offline.
The FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot (FBS) website had to adapt quickly when the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit to ensure that businesses could access up-to-date information about what they needed to do and what support they could get.
Because new funds were constantly being offered, and guidance kept changing as we moved in and out of lockdown, we just added new content when changes were announced by the Scottish Government. We never had time to step back and think about the complete customer journey, and the coronavirus advice page had become very long and complex.
The Scottish Government asked us to make it easier for businesses to access information about coronavirus funding and support on the FBS website, and they gave us two weeks to do it.